“Desire, ask, believe, receive.” -Stella Terrill Mann
This is the story of my struggles and sacrifices along the path which led me here, to the IAM University of the Heart.
Everything I had worked for had come to fruition: I had completed by PhD in economics, and had a tenure-track job as a college professor; I had just published a book based on my dissertation research; I lived in a beautiful neighborhood in San Francisco, with my wife and our baby girl, who was then 6 months old; I felt a very deep and powerful connection with the Universe, cultivated by years of daily meditation practice; I was a teacher and Board Member at the Institute for Applied Meditation (IAM), the 22-year old school of meditation founded by my father and my stepmother; I felt like I was being of service. Everything was falling into place within me and in my life.
I stood in my yard, in the sunshine, tears streaming down my face. I had just received a very powerful desire in my meditation, one that came from the depth of my heart, yet caught me completely by surprise: Move to Tucson.
Tucson, Arizona: the center of activity of IAM. Yeah, but in the desert. A backwater town, full of sprawl and traffic, deeply embedded in a conservative state. Move away from my beloved city, San Francisco, where my mother lived, who I was just now becoming close to, after a lifetime spent far away?
I knew I was needed. I believe in the work of IAM, and I knew that my presence would move our school forward. But I had lots of doubts: I don’t know if I can do this. Am I even willing to do this? Am I strong enough?
I knew I had to work through these powerful, conflicting emotions, I had to feel deeply and fully, letting emotion flow through me like a river. I was lucky enough to be able to go on retreat for a few days. My wife and our baby were away visiting her brother, who was struggling with his marriage.
I meditated on this desire; many tears flowed, and I wrestled with the flow of feeling in my heart, eventually finding that it was more important to me to build IAM than it was to stay in San Francisco.
I had gotten into economics as a way to change the world, but it had become clear to me that my passion was elsewhere. I didn’t feel like my contribution would be made within economics, as much as I enjoyed it. And it didn’t feel like I’d make my mark teaching economics and statistics, either, though I enjoyed it, and I hope I was reasonably good at it (there are some student evaluations here). It began to become clear that my professional life had been a preparation for something new that was emerging now, that I longed to work in a way that hadn’t been clear to me before: changing the world by teaching meditation.
Now, to ask. First up, my wife, Felicity. I hoped things wouldn’t get ugly.
Felicity loves San Francisco. Some of our oldest and dearest friends live there. It’s near the ocean, and going to the beach has always been a deeply spiritual experience for her. She loves my mom and my step-dad, who live in nearby Fairfax; every weekend, we’d go out and have brunch with them, which was great. My wife is an incredible chef, but she needs a special occasion to bring out her inspiration, and the brunch was just the thing.
I told her how important this was to me. I know it will be a huge sacrifice for you. Will you do it for me?
Her response: Are you kidding me? Maybe we need to get a divorce. Then she said stuff like: How am I going to raise this kid on my own? I have no job, no money. I guess I’ll move back in with my mom. But she’s crazy, how will I stand it?
I told her: I can’t lose you. I can’t live without you. And I can’t live without my little girl. She was the joy of our life, when everything felt impossible. Neither of us knew what to do.
I asked my heart for help. I prayed to the Universe, to God, to my Heart: Help me. I can’t do this alone. I can’t see the way through. Please help me.
We teetered on the edge of dissolution. We couldn’t stand it, so we would try to forget the unresolved tension, and the longing we each felt, that threatened to pull us apart. But it would come up again. We were stuck.
The weird thing is that life was great in other ways. Our girl was a beautiful joy, who pierced my heart every day; just holding her, walking with her as she fought against sleep each night, or waking up and just looking at her: these were times I’ll never forget.
I got tenure at the City College of San Francisco. My job was easy; I could roll out of bed and teach statistics. All the formulas were in my head; I rarely had to open the textbook.
The financial panic and near-collapse of 2008 happened, an event I had forecast for 2 years. Suddenly, there was a surge of interest in my work, and my financial advice was sought after (you can find some of it here and here). Though I was new to trading stocks, I followed my own advice and the guidance of my heart, diving into the market at the riskiest time to invest in recent memory. I made a lot of money. It was exciting.
I didn’t talk about moving to Tucson with my wife very often. But I thought about it a lot. I prayed about it often, and it was a theme of my meditations.
I kept on asking, even when it seemed impossible.
We were in therapy together, my wife and I. She was happy because it seemed I had finally given up this impossible dream of moving to Tucson. We were at an impasse. She wouldn’t go; she said, you go, I’ll stay here in San Francisco with our girl. I couldn’t imagine being apart from them for weeks at a time.
But my desire to serve was so strong, I said, let’s try it. I’ll go down to Tucson. You stay. We’ll take trips to see each other. We can work it out.
What happened next was astounding.
My wife broke down and said, “I can’t bear to see you do that. I know I couldn’t do it.”
And she made the sacrifice for me, for us, to keep our family together. I honor her sacrifice and feel deeply grateful to her for making it.
We moved down to Tucson in November of 2009, and I began work at my dream job, as the President of the IAM University of the Heart, a new two-year program in Heart Rhythm Meditation. We had a new baby boy in April, and life is busy. But we’re happy.
Desire. Ask. Believe. Receive. Each one contains trials that can stretch you to your limit. But in stretching your heart, you grow.